Those of you who know the reference in the title can laugh at the title. Those who don't can laugh at me.
The point of the following blog is not to give you answers to any questions. I want your help with questions that haunt and confuse me. Bob Dylan is kind of just a foil.
The latest issue of CT has a couple interesting articles in it that would make good blog posts, especially for Nate (about giving, Africa, AIDS, small gospel, and humility). But one short little blurb has me curious and interested and thinking about important things. This blurb is about Bob Dylan. If you don't like him or his music don't turn me off yet. I'm not going to go on about why I like him or his music. Even if you can't stand the man, I think that the following may be interesting, thought provoking, and informative.
Some really fast background for the ignorant...
Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman or Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham) is well known for his many reinventions of himself and his music. He began as a folk/blues guitar/harmonica player in the clubs of NY and released his first album in 1962. He reinvented himself as a folk-rock singer, and then made enemies of his former fans as he shifted to electric guitar (he even had angry fans try and attack him on stage and one grab an axe to destroy his sound system). He then kind of shifted back to folk rock, then released a country album, and then shifted to pop-rock. Then, in 1979, came the period most important to what I want to talk about. He became a born-again Christian, and a passionate one at that. He used to try and convert his team, his producers and his fans. He released three Evangelical albums, prayed with his band and crew before every concert, and began to talk about Jesus as Lord. Over the years, his faith became more quiet. His next couple albums had Christian and secular songs until there was no more sign of Christianity in his albums. He had one song in one album that some thought was a "reaffirmation of his faith" but there was nothing explicit or obvious. His musical style shifted back to his original folk/blues. As for his religious beliefs many have speculated that he has returned to Judaism, where he started. He has shown up a couple of Jewish services at Synagogues over the years but does not regularly attend anywhere. Others think he is no longer religious at all. In reality, it seems, no one really knows except for Bob Dylan. His religious journey began as a Jew, then to atheism, then to evangelical Christian, and now what?
In 1997 he said this:
"Here's the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else. Songs like "Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain" or "I Saw the Light"—that's my religion. I don't adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I've learned more from the songs than I've learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs."
Bob Dylan was always vague in interviews. Now he really doesn't give any. This quote is about the best we have to go on for the last 20 years. What Dylan really believes and subscribes to does not seem to be the same Christianity than I subscribe to, but whether he has any faith or trust in Jesus Christ left? Who knows for sure?
Okay so the CT article and how it got me thinking...
So the CT article was just a little blurb in reaction to a new documentary on Dylan's 'Jesus Years'. It criticizes the documentary for treating Dylan's 'Jesus Years' as a mere "phase in his artistic development." The article holds out hope that Dylan's faith may still be there, subtle and below the surface.
Just reading and thinking about Dylan and his conversion, whether real or not, has brought several important questions about the Christian Life.
1) If Dylan is not a Christian, is he 'no longer a Christian', never a Christian, an apostate beyond hope of redemption, or someone who never really understood the gospel and may still yet receive Christ? Isn't it strange how some people who seem very passionate about their faith, whose faith we would never doubt, lose that passion and their faith? If they were never saved where did that passion come from? How do we know any passion we or anyone else ever has is real? Do these people know that they are not saved or do they think that they are? If he is no longer saved, then how do we define a Christian? Or the elect? Are the elect merely those who persevere? Or is there something noticeably different about them from the outset that distinguishes from those who will not endure? If Dylan's conversion was insincere, do any of you have reasons that Dylan embraced Christianity insincerely? He lost most of his fan base for ten years. He did not gain money. He became more obscure for the decade. Was he merely a confused individual who needed a crutch and found it temporarily in 'Jesus'?
2) If he is still a Christian, how far afield can someone go and remain a believer? Can they lose all outward evidence and still remain a believer as they go through deep struggle and difficulty internally? Can one abandon his faith and remain 'Saved'? Can someone just be a Christian privately? Is it possible that he just quit being public about his faith? Can a real Christian leave everyone in the dark about his faith?
Obviously we cannot definitively or definitely answer questions regarding Bob Dylan's sincerity or present condition. I hope, but very strongly doubt, that his faith in Christ remains. If nothing else thinking about this really scares me. I have known others whose faith seemed obvious before it disappeared when the slightest test approached like snow melts before the sun. How can I know whether my or another's faith is real, fake, or temporary? Are the 'goats' among us aware that they are goats? I don;t think they (hopefully not we) are. Is it possible that someday my or your passion will fade and we will just be Christians internally, with no outward sign or word?
Tell me what you think about these thoughts and questions. Tell me what you think about Bob Dylan. Tell me if this blog post was a waste of time.
Again, I'm looking for help. I'm not seeking to give you answers.
Sources: Wikipedia, Christianity Today (Dec 2008)
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